The people of Greece have found themselves between a rock and a hard place, having to make impossible decisions. Because of the debt burden, accumulated through years of overspending, they found themselves on the brink of financial collapse.
The rock? “Chaotic Bankruptcy,” as reported from Athens in a Reuter’s article. The hard place? “deep pay, pension and job cuts.” There is more than simple rebellion behind the petrol bombs that have caused 34 buildings–cinemas, cafes, shops and banks–to be set ablaze. An average father, working long days to make rent and other payments, provide food and clothing and transportation for his family, and always worrying how they’re going to make it next month, let alone next year with the continuing rise of inflation, was told he had to accept a pay cut. Some faced losing their jobs or retirements.
In frustration, and without principled restraint, they took to the streets, shouting, “No more!” And a piece of our hearts cried with them, while our souls recoiled from their actions. Still, the rock was immovable. The debts of generations did not give way to the reality of today’s demands. The bailout had to be accepted.
“The chaos outside parliament showed how tough it will be to implement the measures. A Reuters photographer saw buildings in Athens engulfed in flames and huge plumes of smoke rose in the night sky. ‘We are facing destruction. Our country, our home, has become ripe for burning, the centre of Athens is in flames. We cannot allow populism to burn our country down,’ conservative lawmaker Costis Hatzidakis told parliament.”
Their demands were not for more government spending for health care, new schools, or an increasing welfare role. They were working man trying to make ends meet. Unfortunately, their response had not matured to the stoicism of the Irish.
The choices required of Greece are not isolated. They are spreading through Europe and ring familiar in America. But the biggest choice, the one that determines the values of the future, is how will we respond when faced with that rock before us and the concrete wall of bills behind? What type of character will emerge from our souls if we must choose between poverty or national collapse? Could we accept austerity measures and move forward determined that our children will not have to face such choices because we didn’t do our part to reduce the debt? (Perhaps it is too late for them and so we look two generations away in hopes of sparing them this crippling burden.)
Or will we take to the streets in masks of despairing anonymity, gripping bottles filled with gasoline and a rag? “Vandalism, violence and destruction have no place in a democratic country,” claimed Prime Minister of Greece, Lucas Papademos. It doesn’t have place in a Republic either.
Now is the time to ask ourselves, in such a crisis, how will I respond? What is the character of my soul? Will I react with violence or sacrifice? Will my example be one of anger or determination? Will I create chaos or instill hope?